Welcome to “So, What Do You Do All Day,” an ongoing series that explores what real jobs look like—and how people manager their time. We ask accomplished entrepreneurs, executives, and generally fascinating people about about how they juggle their time, approach work-life balance, and get shit done.
Fabfitfun, Away, Equinox, Moon Juice, Medmen, Sakara Life, Sweetgreen, Simplehuman, Girlboss, Stance… These are just a few of the buzzy brands that AZIONE helps megaphone out to the masses. Leland Drummond co-founded the top PR company with co-founder Michele Thomas and in just a few years, the company has worked to extend the brand reach of some the trendiest companies around. (Including, *ahem* Girlboss). The native New Yorker moved to California to join AZIONE cofounder, Michele Thomas on the West Coast. Here’s how the woman responsible for curating the coolest brands maximizes her work days while collaborating across time zones.
I use an old-school, basic alarm clock that wakes me up around 6:30 a.m. I used to use my cell phone, but I’ve since learned it’s best for me to put it on an “emergency only” call mode. I used to sometimes put it under my bed, where I thought I wouldn’t reach it, but even that was too close. So I started putting my phone in my closet overnight.
The first week I did it, I noticed a significant improvement in how rested and focused I was. After the first month, I felt sharper and like my brain was fully recharged. It’s definitely been a game changer.
I’ve also been into transcendental meditation. I use the Inscape app which literally transports you to another dimension. Now as my son is getting older his sleep schedule is changing. So I usually try to set the alarm clock for 30 to 40 minutes before I think my son will wake up, which sometimes works. (Sometimes it doesn’t.) But on a good day, I’ll get in 20 minutes of a morning meditation. It really allows me to get into the right mindset for the day.
I have a celery green juice upon waking, but I usually don’t have my first “meal” until lunch at about 12 or 12:30 p.m. Practicing pilates before work, and coffee, also helps reset and power me up.
Podcasts save me on my commute. I’m a huge fan of entrepreneurial podcasts but also can’t get enough of Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations and The New York Times‘s The Daily is also consistently on the playlist. And the Girlboss Radio podcast, of course. I’ve been a fan since day one.
The work grind
During a typical work week for AZIONE I’m on the clock for 40 to 50 hours. Approximately three to four hours a day are spent in meetings—some by phone, some in person. I leave the office at 4 p.m. to work remotely from home and spend time with my family.
“You can’t afford to ignore the going-ons of the world.”
Productivity (at work) for me is really about getting new business in order. I like reading what’s happening in the world. It’s a rapidly-changing landscape and when you’re working in PR, you can’t afford to ignore the going-ons of the world. I’ll try to schedule in some time to talk to other industry people about the “current climate” of things in news, pop culture, PR, etc.
I spend a lot of time in meetings, though our daily and weekly internal meetings are usually run by our VP. I still love to write as much as I can. so I’ll help the team with pitches. I also manage my time so that I’m involved in high-level strategy meetings.
A premium on face-to-face time
In this industry, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of relying on email as your main source of communication. It’s a critical part, sure, of sending out pitches and communicating with clients. But, I’m a little old-school in that I think there’s really nothing better than communicating in real time, face-to-face, as much as possible with clients.
There’s just so much more you can accomplish and there’s so much that can be lost in an email thread. When you’re working with others, it’s really about forming a partnership and that happens offline.
To cut down on email, I’ll let my assistant handle scheduling and any back-and-forth correspondence. As a company, AZIONE’s team relies on Slack to answer quick questions with one another. It helps keep our inboxes as clean as we can.
Maintaining a healthy attitude
I’ll admit I like compartmentalizing my life. My husband and I understand that there are some days when we need to decompress. And, if we sense that, we allow ourselves to have that space to recoup for what comes next. There are also some work days when, no matter how much you’re really, really trying to make things work—they don’t. And that’s okay. I’ve learned over the years that, “No,” is a powerful word that can have a positive effect on your life.
“‘No,’ is a powerful word that can have a positive effect.”
When we’re firing on all cylinders, it’s easy to feel guilty about turning down a potential meeting. We rule out the possibility of rescheduling because we’re holding ourselves to this higher standard. The truth is, though, it’s better in the long run to reschedule for a time when you feel at your best. Doing so means you’re bringing your best self to the table and that’s ultimately a win-win situation for everyone.
A singular focus
I like to organize my week by focusing on certain tasks on certain days. While we have offices in Los Angeles, the executive team has a separate office near the beach, closer to where I live. It’s a welcome place to focus on my work, especially since we have an open-floor plan in the L.A. offices. It’s great for open, collaborative feel, but not suited for every task. As a result, I’ll spend some days out of the week in the L.A. office handling one-on-one meetings and tasks involving more of the staff.
In terms of calls, I don’t schedule anything for earlier than 9:30 a.m. This can sometimes be a little difficult, given that so many of our clients are in New York, but it helps me avoid waking up and diving into a big call right away. I’ve also eliminated Friday calls and meetings. I reserve the day for planning the following week and catching up on work I have to do. No use in taking on more projects just before heading into the weekend!
Moving to New York from California was a big shift. While I’m here in California, it means that the rest of our AZIONE team is up earlier and running as soon as I’m awake. It can be challenging as well since we have most of our clients in New York but I’m okay with that since I would much rather wake up and start my day earlier and end it earlier as well.
When I was living in New York (2011-2017) we were in a significant establishing and building phase of the company, so it was beneficial to have the energy and hustle mentality of the city as the backdrop 24/7. Now that we’ve built the agency to a place where we’re sustaining and scaling in a more slow manner and laser-focused on strategy, it’s healthy for me to have the time and space to think and work alongside my business partner again. It feels like I can get more tasks completed and be more efficient with my time.
With regard to my personal life, the California lifestyle agrees with me—I spend more quality time with my family, and spend more time outside doing activities. It feels more balanced.
Off the clock
I’ve gotten incredibly good at being extremely efficient in my “work time” so I can be completely present during my time with my family. Of course, nobody’s perfect, and inevitably sometimes you can’t keep church and state separate, but I’d say the critical lesson that parenting and having a family has taught me is that all you can do is your best. And that, to me, feels pretty applicable for all lanes in life.
The weekends are all about family time. We live at the beach and the weather is typically nice so I try and spend as much time outside as possible. I’m learning to surf this year.
I’ll unwind at home by hanging out with my son or putting my phone down for a moment. Oh, and an at-home massage every few weeks is the ultimate treat. It’s heaven.
In the evenings, I try to read at least one book. Even if it’s just one page out of a book. The idea is to force myself to do something before bed that goes beyond staring at a screen all day. That’s why I have The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo on my bed stand. I also recently read Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, and I’m pretty proud of that one since it’s lengthy! Usually I’m usually in bed by 10:30 p.m.
Ultimately, at the end of the day I feel grateful. There’s nothing better than that, right?